If anyone had said Royal Challengers Bangalore would figure in next year’s Champions League T20 after their performance in the first IPL, derisive laughter would have been the result.
But not only did they turn their fortunes around well enough to qualify for what was the inaugural year of the cash-rich CLT20, but by doing so again this year, they have become only the second team to repeat the feat after Victorian Bushrangers.
Unlike the Bushrangers, who made the semifinals, RCB didn’t quite set the field alight last year despite the advantage of playing their initial matches at home in the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
This time, they are back at what they consider their second home, South Africa. This is where they rose like the phoenix go from No. 7 to the second-best team in the IPL.
The abundance of South Africans in their side, starting with coach Ray Jennings, a former SA national team coach no less, undoubtedly helps.
For this tournament, the trio of Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and Dillon du Preez, make up the SA contingent in the 15-man squad, two of whom should definitely take the field along with Cameron White and Ross Taylor, two of the hardest-hitting batsman in the world presently.
Actually, the very fact that the team management has invested as much as $600,000 to ensure the presence of Kallis, White and Taylor, all of whom would otherwise have turned out for their home teams, shows that RCB are willing to go to any length to have a shot at the title, which in effect will make them the world’s top cricket club, not forgetting the richest too, given that the total prize money we are talking about is $ 6 million.
RCB, though, are not entirely dependent on their foreign stars. If in Anil Kumble they have a shrewd leader who knows a thing or two about getting a side to play together as a team and not as a bunch of stars, in Rahul Dravid they have a steadying influence with the bat, a much-needed factor given that the other batsmen in the side, Kallis at the top apart, tend to go hell for leather.
With the likes of Virat Kohli and Robin Uthappa, two young men who love the big stage, to follow, RCB’s batting depth is not to be scoffed at.
Nor so the bowling, making them a well-rounded side. Led by Dale Steyn, who can expect support from the Bangalore duo of Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun. Praveen Kumar, too will relish the SA conditions, the bowling is in more than capable hands. That Kumble will be around to provide the spinning option makes this a dangerous attack.
All in all RCB should start the second edition of the CLT20 start as one of the favourites for the title.